Joe Biden endorses Nikema Williams in bid for John Lewis’s seat in Congress

10/12/2020 - Decatur, Georgia - Democratic candidate for U.S. House Nikema Williams at a rally for Presidential Democratic nominee Joe Biden and Vice President nominee Kamala Harris in downtown Decatur, Monday, October 12, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
10/12/2020 - Decatur, Georgia - Democratic candidate for U.S. House Nikema Williams at a rally for Presidential Democratic nominee Joe Biden and Vice President nominee Kamala Harris in downtown Decatur, Monday, October 12, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Williams once criticized Biden after a poor debate performance.

Once critical of former Vice President Joe Biden, Nikema Williams is now celebrating his endorsement of her congressional bid.

Williams is the clear front-runner in the 5th Congressional District general election contest to succeed John Lewis, who died in July. She said Tuesday that she was “honored and humbled” to have Biden’s backing.

“No one running in 2020 knows more about being a president than Biden," she said.

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Biden released a statement saying Williams is the right person to follow in Lewis’s footsteps.

"Nikema Williams lifts up those around her to achieve their highest potential — through her work advocating for domestic workers, as the Democratic Party Chair in Georgia, as a wife and as a mom to Carter,” he said. "Congressman John Lewis was a trusted friend and colleague and I’m proud to endorse Nikema Williams to continue his legacy of getting in the way and making good trouble.”

Biden has already endorsed other Georgia candidates. Last month he backed U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath and Carolyn Bourdeaux, the Democratic candidates in the highly competitive 6th and 7th Congressional Districts, respectively.

Williams, bound by party rules requiring her neutrality as chairwoman, did not back Biden’s presidential bid until after he clinched the nomination. During the primary season when there were several top-tier candidates, she vowed to support whoever won the Georgia primary.

However, Williams had tough words for Biden after a disappointing performance in a June 2019 debate. An exchange with his future running mate, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, on race and busing left many Democrats, including Williams, disappointed.

“I’m now sitting in a hotel room in tears,” she wrote then on Facebook. “That exchange with #SenatorHarris and #VPBiden broke me to hear him continue to defend his flawed position.”

Biden had argued that school integration decisions during the 1970s were best left up to individual states. Harris pushed back, accusing him of allowing racist systems to persist. Williams appeared to agree.

“I see you #Kamala," her Facebook post continued. "Vice President #Biden was and is wrong. We have a fundamental difference in belief here ... As a black woman in the south, leading a State Democratic Party, I will make sure our party recognizes all the little Kamala’s and Nikema’s out there that deserve someone and a party to fight for them.”

The coronavirus pandemic delayed Georgia’s primary from March 2020 to June. By that time, Biden had clinched the nomination, and Williams quickly embraced him.

She formally cast the state delegation’s votes for Biden during the Democratic National Convention and has since become a surrogate in Georgia and beyond. Williams’s campaign said Tuesday that she is dedicated to helping the Biden-Harris team win.

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